Thu Aug 7, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Rock of the 80s

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The Romantics (Talking in Your Sleep,” “What I Like About You”)
The Smithereens (“A Girl Like You,” "Only a Memory")
Marshall Crenshaw (“Someday Someway”)
Tommy Tutone (“867-5309/Jenny”)  


The Romantics: The original members of The Romantics—Wally Palmar, Jimmy Marinos, Mike Skill and Rich Cole—formally became a band on Valentine’s Day,1977. Bred on the mean streets of Detroit’s east side, they were inspired by the British punk invasion and their hometown rock scene. Nearly 30 years later they are still known for having created some of the most influential and beloved rock and roll of all time. The Romantics cut their teeth on the Detroit sound characterized by the MC5, the Stooges, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Rationals, SRC, the Underdogs, and infused it with sincerity, irony, spontaneity and, of course, volume. They favored short hair, short songs and popularized red leather suits.

After signing with Nemperor Records in 1979, The Romantics released their debut LP, recorded in three weeks. Anchored by “That's What I Like About You,” “When I Look In Your Eyes” and a cover of Ray Davies' “She's Got Everything,” The album is an exemplary pop-rock period piece. The Romantics evoke a youthful portrait, haunting in its innocence, a direct contrast to the tough world they know in Detroit. The band reaches its commercial peak in 1983-1984 with In Heat, a platinum album bearing two top ten singles: “Talking In Your Sleep” and “One In A Million.” Currently, Palmar, Skill, Cole, and Brad Elvis are touring and writing songs.

The Smithereens:  Dressed in leather, brandishing heavy guitars, and exhibiting an unabashed fetish for British Invasion pop, the Smithereens were an anomaly in the American college rock scene of the late '80s. Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Pat DiNizio stood out not only with his strange beatnik goatee, but also because his catchy hooks were haunting, not punchy, and because his lyrics were morose. As time wore on, the group became more straightforward, turning into an excellent bar band, one that attacked pop songs with the weight of AC/DC. A few hits followed, but the Smithereens seemed hopelessly out of date in the alternative rock explosion of the early '90s, and they quietly faded into a working cult band.

On the strength of college airplay, as well as MTV's airing of “Blood and Roses” — a video financed by a film studio that included the song in the B-movie Dangerously Close — the album became a moderate hit, climbing to number 51 on the charts and leading to a major-label contract with Capitol. the Smithereens supported the album with an extensive tour, and they recorded their second record weeks after they left the road.

Green Thoughts appeared early in 1988, and the first single, “Only a Memory,” not only became a college and modern rock hit, but it crossed over to album rock stations as well. the Smithereens made their attempt for big-time album rock success with their third album, 11. Hiring producer Ed Stasium brought a heavier guitar sound, which made “A Girl Like You” — a song rejected as the theme for the comedy Say Anything — a Top 40 hit, sending 11 to gold status. “Too Much Passion,” the first single from their fourth album, Blow Up, indicated that the new record was more adventurous and produced, and the single did become a Top 40 hit, yet the album itself failed to replicate the success of its predecessor.

Marshall Crenshaw: Born near Detroit, Michigan, Marshall Crenshaw began playing guitar at age ten and he received his first break playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway company of Beatlemania. In 1987, he played Buddy Holly in the Richie Valens biopic “La Bamba.” While living in NYC, he recorded the single “Something’s Gonna Happen” for Alan Betrock’s Shake Records, which led to a deal with Warner Bros. His debut album, Marshall Crenshaw was acclaimed as a pop masterpiece upon its release in 1982 and established him as a first-rate songwriter, singer and guitarist. The record spawned the Top 40 single “Someday, Someway,” which rockabilly singer Robert Gordon covered and scored a hit with a year earlier, and other classics such as “(You’re My) Favorite Waste of Time,” “Whenever You’re On My Mind” and “Cynical Girl.” The great songs continued with the Life’s Too Short album on MCA (“Fantastic Planet of Love”), three albums for Razor & Tie and the 2009 release Jaggedland (“Someone Told Me,” “Passing Through,” “Never Coming Down.”

Along the way, Crenshaw’s compositions have been successfully covered by a broad array of performers, including Bette Midler, Kelly Willis, Robert Gordon, Ronnie Spector, Marti Jones and the Gin Blossoms, with whom Crenshaw co-wrote the Top 10 single “Til I Hear It From You.” He’s also provided music for several film soundtracks, appeared in the films La Bamba(as Buddy Holly) and Peggy Sue Got Married, and was nominated for a Grammy and a Golden Globe award for penning the title track for the film comedy Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Crenshaw also wrote a book about rock movies entitled Hollywood Rock ’n’ Roll, and has assembled compilation albums of the music of Scott Walker and the Louvin Brothers, as well as the acclaimed country-and-western collection Hillbilly Music . . . Thank God! Since 2011, he has hosted his own radio show, The Bottomless Pit, on New York’s WFUV, Saturday nights at 10 p.m. ET.

Tommy Tutone: Tommy Tutone were an early-'80s power pop band led by vocalist Tommy Heath and guitarist Jim Keller. The group's first single, 1980's “Angel Say No,” scraped the bottom of the American Top 40, yet it was 1981's “867-5309/Jenny” that sent the group to the top of the charts. Peaking in early 1982, the single hit number four and went gold. In 1994, Heath returned, using the name Tommy Tutone for a new release, Nervous Love, a collection of various post-Tommy Tutone recordings. Heath continued to sporadically work with Tommy Tutone over the next two decades, releasing Tutone.rtf in 1998. Nervous Love saw a retitled reissue called A Long Time Ago in the summer of 2011.

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